Friday, August 07, 2009

ECFA as annexation strategy

The Economist comments on ECFA. It's good that the paper realizes that ECFA is an annexation strategy of China's, and in this excerpt the second half of the article, great sympathy for the pro-Taiwan side is shown. Kudos to the writer. For some reason the media seem mysteriously bound to ignore any news that suggests that ECFA may have no or negative economic effect. Guys, when is anyone going to print in an international newspaper that simulations show that ECFA is going to slash our flagship IT sector by 7-9%?
A think-tank commissioned by the government said the proposed pact could increase Taiwanese GDP by 1.65-1.72%—more if services and investment were included. In addition, it argued, the pact could increase foreign direct investment by $8.9 billion in seven years and create around 260,000 jobs (though other economists said this was too high). The president wants an outline agreement in place before ASEAN+1 comes into force, with the details worked out and implemented bit by bit after that. An incremental approach, officials say, is needed because an immediate FTA would be too disruptive to Taiwan’s economy.

Disruptive is right, but not perhaps mainly to the economy. China still asserts that Taiwan is an integral part of the People’s Republic. Many Taiwanese, including the pro-independence opposition party, fear that the proposed accord is really a ploy by China to bring about unification by stealth. They also argue that once the pact is signed, there is no guarantee that China will not lean on members of other FTAs to keep Taiwan out anyway. In contrast, Mr Ma insists that the proposed pact would make it easier for Taiwan to sign free-trade accords with third parties.

“It is a suicidal policy that makes Taiwan locked into China,” says Huang Kun-huei, the chairman of the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union. In a sign of the popular unease raised by the pact, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which has virtually no parliamentary clout, still managed to collect over 120,000 signatories to a petition asking the government for a referendum on it (though Taiwan’s high threshold for referendum participation means that such a thing may not get off the ground).

In fact, dramatic political shifts seem unlikely in the short term. Mr Ma has promised that when the deal is negotiated, the wording will not compromise the island’s political stance. And China-watchers think the increasingly sophisticated government in Beijing is not likely to make heavy-handed political demands in case this rebounds on Mr Ma and he is voted out of office in 2012 (the Chinese much prefer him to the independence-minded opposition). Nevertheless, in the long run China hopes that economic interdependency and goodwill will eventually encourage the island to return to the fold. The trade pact will be a test of whether that hope can be fulfilled.
Fairly well balanced, though it would good if the Economist would stop claiming that annexing Taiwan to China is "returning it to the fold."

UPDATE: SY has some excellent remarks in the post below on the balance of this piece.
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Anonymous said...

Where is the international criticism regarding Ma Ying-jiu's "creeping unification"? I remember all the alarm over "creeping independence.

securitypony said...

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Ukraine military hovercraft to equip Chinese navy,ukraine-military-hovercraft-to-equip-chinese-navy.html

SY said...

I am somewhat troubled by your comment of "Fairly well balanced" in the following sense:

1. To call Taiwan "a self-ruled democratic island", which implies a status similar to Kashmir's or Tibet's, is absolutely biased. The Economist will never refer to the Britain as "the self-ruled democratic British isles", will it? The Economist takes sides with China and views Taiwan as a "region", not a country/nation/state. The article's title ("Reunification by Trade") also shows the typical media ignorance about Taiwan's history.

2. Although being "balaned" is important in news report, it cannot outweigh the duty of reporting the complete truth based on due diligence. The Economist failed to do reasonable fact-finding (an easy one, see 3. below) and only presented the view censored by the Ma administration regarding the research on ECFA that the latter commmissioned.

3. The Economist failed to take a very easy cue from Liberty Times to present the complete fact and to nail the hidden agenda of the Ma administration:

(3.1) On July 29, the government went public with the research result of the think tank it commissioned.

(3.2) On the same day (i.e. before the Goverment's public report later on the day), Liberty Times front page headlines reported that the research of the think tank (Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research) showed that although ECFA will bring benefits but its economic drawbacks will be twice as big in economic terms, rendering ECFA an unworthy adventure.

(3.3) The same Liberty Times article predicted that, later on the day, the Ma administration planned to show the public only the positive sides of the research result and lie about there being no negative impacts. Sure enough, the govenment went ahead and did it without a blush.

(3.4) The Economist regurgitated what the governement said without considering the Liberty Times article, let alone referring to the actual research report.

See Liberty Times article on July 29:

NOTE: The next day (July 30), the front page headlines of Liberty Times reported that the government "as predicted" lied. The report cited an unnamed original researcher who questioned why the government ignored the important negative impacts. see Liberty Times article of July 30:

In my view, it is a journalistic failure for The Economist to fail to take the ready-to-be-grabbed, no-extra-legwork-required notes from the two days' headlines of Liberty Times.

The real failure of The Economist lies in the fact that it still sees Taiwan as a side job of the China Story. If it were to report on similar matters in Israel or Ireland, the two days' headlines of Liberty Times wouldn't have been overlooked.

The "balance" you refered to is, in my view, a pro forma balance; a political dance, not genuine journalism.

Craig Ferguson (@cfimages) said...

If the situation is so dire, where are the protests?

I read stuff in the pro-green media, on blogs and about the only thing that seems to be happening other than op-eds is a referendum attempt that seems doomed to failure. It's honestly hard to see the situation as being as serious to Taiwan's freedom and sovereignty as everyone says when there's no real protest.

The international media would probably take a much deeper look at it if there were massive daily, weekly or even monthly protests. Things like that are newsworthy. Op-eds in pro-green media in a country where media standards in general are quite poor, are not enough to create attention.

One big protest in May, before that it was during Chen Yunlin's visit and that's it? If freedom were really threatened, people would be on the streets constantly before it's too late. The fact that they're not makes most think that there isn't much opposition to ECFA.

Anonymous said...

Craig said: "If the situation is so dire, where are the protests?"

You're mistaken. Maybe you don't watch Mandarin language TV or read Mandarin langauge news (can you?). There were several huge protests (and where they weren't huge, they were, like the Wild Strawberries large impact on a certain population--students). One back in August (poisonous Chinese goods among other things), when Chen Yunlin came, the Wild Strawberry protests right after that, and the protests back in May this year. (Michael you might consider posting a summary of links back to your own posts re protests and things people have been pissed off about Ma about).

Meanwhile, the south, students and young people, environmentalists, public television, Tibetan Buddhists (largely pro-Ma) are now all anti-Ma and anti-KMT. Someone, Ma has managed to reunite the DPP with repeated disregard for fair, even treatment of Chen Shui-bian.

The problem with these hack reporters is most of the time they are reporting from Beijing or Hong Kong and they don't read Mandarin, or they don't read it well. Or if they read it, they don't have ability to watch Taiwanese television or go beyond scanning headlines. Craig, have any idea how Green the Mandarin language internet is getting in Taiwan these days? (With the caveat of course that this doesn't really affect people 35 and older in TW).

There is building unrest. The international media should cover that. Whether it will lead to actual change is a complex question, because protests in and of themselves usually aren't able to do that.

This is an aside, but Taiwan has this crazy idea that the fewer elections there are, the better, and change through the system won't happen on the national level for another two and half years. In the US system for example, you have reps up for election every two years and the senatorial elections are staggered so that about a third of them are up every two years as well. There are in essence, "midterms" that put pressure on the President to listen to public opinion. That isn't the case in Taiwan.

So. Angry public, including many previous supporters of Ma Ying-jeou. Maybe no changes at the national level. No contradiction. But if the intent of the international media is to report what Taiwanese people think about this whole thing to the rest of the world, what should be covered is the angry public.

Richard said...

In response to Craig:

I think part of it is because the public doesn't actually know what the ramifications of an ECFA would entail. Also, there's just the simple fact that many Taiwanese are apathetic/indifferent towards politics. They think it's all silly games between loud-mouthed politicians. The thing about an ECFA is that it's a cover-move by China and Ma, get the public to think it's purely about money (in the interests of the people), and not about politics and sovereignty. Taiwanese have always had a hard time looking past the present, especially when presented with candy, but if they go beyond it and consider the resulting effects of all these arrangements and agreements with China-- they may actually wake up and realize that Taiwan is all but in name, a part of China. And at that point, it will be too late for Taiwan to escape, with China having control of Taiwan's economy.

Michael Turton said...

LOL, thanks for the great comments, SY. I guess my expectations for how Taiwan is going to be presented in the media are so low now, that anything even mildly negative about ECFA, with some balance from the pro-Taiwan side, can meet with my approval.

Craig Ferguson (@cfimages) said...

@Anon 2.44pm - I'm aware of those and mentioned them in my comment (last paragraph). I shot the 8/30 one as well as Wild Strawbs. A handful of protests months apart is what I'm confused over - surely there should be more than 4-5 protests over a year if people were as worried as the green-media says. Thanks for your reply.

@Richard - Makes sense. Thanks.

Anonymous said...


But you didn't mention the ones that you took pictures of. How would I know that you know about them when you try to minimize how many protests there were (to two, which is why I bothered to list the others). Tell me a reason people would come out and protest for say, next Saturday. No? I can't think of one either, but that's still perfectly consistent with strong feelings against ECFA. They've come out and shown what they think through their numbers. What's the reason to come out again?

Craig Ferguson (@cfimages) said...

@Anon - Sorry if I wasn't clear, but your point about not being able to think of a reason why people would come out for a protest is what makes me wonder. If sovereignty and freedom are really at stake and threatened, there'd be constant protests. People won't just let their freedom be taken. The lack of protests (5/17 being the only big one in 2009) makes me think that the ECFA is not the threat the DPP and pro-green media/blogs say it is.

Remember to that closer integration on the economic side of things could well lead to a future peace deal and that should be the ultimate goal. Peace should trump everything else.

Robert R. said...

Craig, one reason is that it's not imminent. The people said their piece, see that there is movement from the [DPP] politicians, and let the system work it's "magic".
Protesting weekly is just asking for a low turnout, especially when the ECFA won't be negotiated until late 2009 or next year.

People won't just let their freedom be taken
I'm no historian, but I'm quite certain this has happened more than once in the past.

Robert R. said...

Penghu's dirty power plants to close, replaced by wind.

Dang. We were considering to bid on one of the exhaust gas cleanup projects.

Anonymous said...

Craig: No, I perfectly understood what you're saying, but you're not making logical sense. People feel strongly against ECFA, but there's nothing immediate that's happening and there's no immediate chance for change and that's why protests aren't happening. The lack of protests is not because they think ECFA is okay.

There already have been huge protests. Again, the media should note that. Nothing's changed those people's minds.

Your new point about economic integration bringing "peace" is so ahistorically silly. Are you ignoring the entire 80s and 90s? Growing economic integration, rising Taiwanese consciousness. Before the 80s, most Taiwanese think they're Chinese. Now most Taiwanese think they're Taiwanese.

Peace isn't an ultimate value to support in itself. After Japanese and German aggression in World War II, was the correct answer to just lay down and let them do what they want? That surely would have brought peace. What will bring real peace is what always brings peace--when the possible aggressor (China) thinks an invasion will be too costly.

Anonymous said...

"If the situation is so dire, where are the protests?"
Hahaha, and if the DPP were leading protests they would be labeled as disruptive, violent, etc.... as usual. Damned if you do and damned if you don't I guess........

Craig Ferguson (@cfimages) said...

Last comment from me, just to say that Anon, if you think

Peace isn't an ultimate value to support in itself

then I really feel sorry for you.

Anonymous said...


I can respect that you value peace over anything else (although honestly I don't really believe you do), but no need for the condescending pity.

There are many things people value, including basic human rights, the right to free speech, a free press, freedom of religion, freedom to associate, freedom to own private property... they certainly value peace as well, but they also value the democratic way of life (among other things) more, and it's not so hard for me personally to imagine a situation where I felt threatened and peace would not be my first priority.